Animals On Display
“You will burn in the fires of Hell, you bastards of sodomites and whores!” Thunder rang from the mouth of the ragged man clutching a Bible to his heart, his other arm outstretched to Heaven in defiance of the heathen horde that lay before him. Dressed in garb more reminiscent of a 1930’s hobo than a man of any kind of religious cloth, sweat streamed from his face into his grizzled-beard as the sun beamed down with no sign of reprieve save for the monkey house to his right. Zoo animal and a zoo patron alike paid no attention to the man, instead keeping to their respective duties of either looking cute or just strolling by. His tirade continued full force.
Danny sipped his milkshake as he watched the scene unfold. He leaned over to Esmerelda, equally engrossed in her own milkshake merriment though of the chocolate variety, bumped her shoulder and said, “Is he talking to us?”
“I don’t think so. I think he’s just talking.”
“Why is he saying this stuff?”
“I think he’s mad at somebody.”
“I don’t know. Maybe somebody hurt his dog.” At that, Esmerelda gave Danny the same “you’re a dummy”-look she had given him all throughout 2nd grade last year. Danny grinned sheepishly.
“Heretic!” The self-appointed harbinger of His will was looking directly at the two children. “You will burn! He has said in Revelation 21:8 of all the fornicators and perverts that abound in this world from the very old down to even the very young ‘their fate is in the fiery lake of burning sulfur! This is the second death!’ Your corrupt police that are so eager to render unto Caesar cannot protect you! Your scantily clad underage girls on your pornographic prime time television cannot protect you! Your ill-gotten riches won’t buy you enough power to fit that camel through the eye of that needle! It is written! Only in Jesus can the spirit be redeemed! Amen! And amen again!”
The children continued to watch the spectacle as though they were in a trance or perhaps just a movie theater, straws locked into their mouths providing the steady flow of ice cream and milk nourishment. A constant stream of people flowed seemingly oblivious between the miniature audience leaning on the black metal railing and their main act.
“He’s mean,” Esmeralda noted, somehow managing a pout in the brief time her lips left the straw. “I want him to shut up.”
“Nuh uh. He’s so cool. Look at him. He’s happy. This is just what he does.”
“Maybe he’ll be nicer if I give him some of my shake.” Esmerelda nodded as if to move towards the deacon.
“No, Esmerelda!” Danny yanked her backwards by the arm. “Mama, said you’re not supposed to feed them!”
“But it’s so hot out here. He looks thirsty. I don’t see any water or food near him.”
“No! You’ll get in trouble!”
The thundering of the man’s voice never wavered as he continued to preach his message of impending eternal damnation, his eyes now just as fixed on the children as theirs were on him. “Fire! Fire, I say! Every time you watch a pornographic scene made by the sodomites in Unholywood that exalts abominations of homosexuality and wizardry, you are turning your heart away from God Almighty and reserving your room with the Great Deceiver! God will damn you! He will damn you for all eternity, I say amen!”
“Aw. I’m gonna give him some of mine.” Esmerelda moved forward out of Danny’s grasp.
“No!…Esmerelda!…I’m telling mom!”
Just as she was almost upon the grizzled preacher, two zoo security guards suddenly appeared in front of her, their brown shirts and dark sunglasses denoting their authority.
“No no, little girl. You don’t feed them. That’s dangerous… for you and him. Do you understand?”
Esmerelda only stared for a moment, before turning in a blush and retreating back towards her tattle-tale twin brother.
“I told you so!”
Esmerelda gave him the look again, and they both giggled. They watched as the two security guards gathered up the street preacher and his belongings, shooing him away out of the scene back to where he came from. The tales of fire and brimstone had stopped as he knew he was beaten, and the preacher slowly walked towards the exits with the security guards walking subtly yet menacingly behind.
“Aw, don’t be mean to him! He’s just thirsty! You’re being a bully! Bullies!” With the man finally gone from view, Esmerelda again gave a pout and the children turned and headed into the primate house, tossing their empty cups into a nearby bin.
“Oh wow, look at this one! He’s hanging from a rope! He’s so cool!” Danny tapped on the exhibit glass with excitement.
“Awwww. He looks sad,” Esmerelda lamented.